Belgium’s brilliant Courtois has proven to Real Madrid he is better than De Gea & Alisson

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The Chelsea No.1 has produced his magnificent best at the World Cup in Russia, which could help him secure the return to Spain he desperately craves

Douglas Costa teed the ball up perfectly for Neymar on the edge of the Belgium box. This was the chance, the moment, that the Brazil No.10 had been waiting for. With an almost nonchalant swing of his right foot, he sent the ball spinning towards goal.

Every Belgian fan inside the Kazan Arena feared the worst but then Thibaut Courtois intervened, tipping Neymar's almost perfectly-struck shot over the bar with his fingertips. 

It transpired that this was instead his chance, his moment, the one he had been waiting for to show Real Madrid and the watching world that he is the best goalkeeper on the planet. 

In one of the most exciting games of the most exciting World Cups in history, the Chelsea goalkeeper had produced the most memorable moment in an absorbing quarter-final. 

Kevin De Bruyne had scored a brilliant goal in Belgium's 2-1 win, earning him the man-of-the-match award, but Courtois had been his country's hero .

He made nine saves against Brazil, as many as he made in his four previous outings at the 2018 World Cup.

When Belgium had needed him most, Courtois had stepped up to the mark, earning the Red Devils a semi-final date with destiny against France on Tuesday.

This was the kind of performance he has dreamed of delivering since breaking into the Genk team at just 16 years of age and it has arrived during a summer of uncertainty at Stamford Bridge. 

It is not yet known when Maurizio Sarri will take over as Chelsea boss and it is not yet known if Courtois will still be at the club come the start of the season.

The former Atletico Madrid shot-stopper has made no secret of his desire to return to the Spanish capital to be closer to his daughters , while even the fact that one of his two goalkeeping coaches is Spanish, Inaki Bergara, underlines just how closely connected he remains to a country that he views as his second home.

A move to Real Madrid would, thus, appear a logical next step for a man who spent three successful seasons at the Vicente Calderon. Los Blancos have long dreamed of bringing another former Atleti goalkeeper back to Madrid, Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.

They came pretty close in 2015, too, only to be denied by a malfunctioning fax machine... That resulted in Keylor Navas remaining at the Santiago Bernabeu, where he has served Real well. 

But the De Gea links have never gone away, while Roma goalkeeper Alisson also emerged as a transfer target during his fantastic season at the Stadio Olimpico. 

Courtois, though, has outshone both in Russia.

Thibaut Courtois Belgium

De Gea was the weak link in a brittle Spanish defence, gifting Cristiano Ronaldo a goal in the 3-3 draw with Portugal in Sochi, while his all-round shakiness resulted in repeated calls for him to be dropped by coach Fernando Hierro. 

Alisson fared better with Brazil, keeping three clean sheets, but he never exhibited the same level of authority as Courtois, particularly when it came to dealing with crosses.

Giddy England fans may well point to Jordan Pickford, while Danijel Subasic has been decisive for Croatia, but, overall, Courtois has been the World Cup's most impressive goalkeeper.

As a result, he is now within touching distance of realising another childhood dream.

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"With the Belgian Red Devils, his goal is to maybe one day win a World Cup or European Championship," Thierry Courtois told Goal earlier in the season . "They have twice reached quarter-finals [at Brazil 2014 and Euro 2016].

"In Russia, though, the final or more [is possible] and obviously he would also like to be the best goalkeeper of the tournament. He certainly has all the quality to get the trophy.”

Neymar knows that better than anyone.

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